Over the past couple of decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of alien planets and solar systems. These worlds come in a wide variety of arrangements, many of which are quite different from what we see in our own solar system.
Some have giant planets that swing through the planetary systems in stretched-out, or “eccentric,” elliptical orbits, unlike the nearly circular orbits of planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
Astronomers think that many of these eccentric giant planets would act like “wrecking balls” in their planetary systems, disturbing the orbits of other, smaller planets. But that’s not always the case, according to a study published last week in The Astronomical Journal.
A giant exoplanet called HR 5183b, which orbits its host star in a stretched-out loop once every 75 years or so, wouldn’t disrupt the orbit of a small, rocky neighboring planet under the right conditions. And any starg...